We are moving. And for the first time since I was a kid and had no control over these things, it’s not just across town. We’re moving to a new town. And the whole thing is confusing and everchanging and immediate and confusing (did I say confusing?). I have lived in this town for all of my life, give or take a year or two when I was a kid. My family is here. My husband’s family is here. We have quite possibly the best library in the world. It’s so supportive of writers and provides such excellent programming for children. I love it. And I will miss it and all the wonderful people who work there that have gotten to know me and my kids (at least by face, if not by name). We have gone to the same church since before we got married. We’ve only ever gone elsewhere once or twice while traveling.
Overall, it’s scary, even if it’s also really exciting. We’re not moving ridiculously far away. Only about an hour away to the Kansas City area. Close enough that we can still come back here for a somewhat weekly tabletop game with my brother and friends. Close enough that we won’t have to miss holidays with family. Close enough that they can come visit us fairly often. But just far enough away that if the car breaks down, I’ll think twice before calling up my mom to come get me. Just far enough away to feel like another world on days when I’m lonely.
Originally, we were moving in another direction. South, to a smaller town, and we were supposed to be moving down there around this time. So I “turned in my notice” as a Sunday School teacher and prepared myself to beginning looking for a new church home. As much as our church has been home for over a decade, we barely make it on time when we live 20 minutes away. There’s no way I’d get us to church if we were driving an hour to do it. So our last Sunday came. And I decided that I could see a little bit of what was going on in Topeka before we left, to sort of get me ready for visiting new churches. So we spent a couple Sundays at other churches. But today was Thanksgiving dinner at our home church. And a special musical program. So back we went. And somewhere in the middle of the service, it dawned on me that I still had a set of keys to the church.
I was tempted to just keep them. We haven’t yet found a new church, so we’re still members there. I plan to continue sending our tithe there until we find a new home. So why not just keep the keys? But we won’t typically be going there. We won’t have responsibilities that require us to go there when others aren’t there already. So why not give them back? In the end, I gave them back, turning them in after the service was over. But it felt like such a final thing. After a couple Sundays elsewhere, I thought I was doing okay with this whole moving thing. Now, I realize I’ve still been holding onto things that make it seem unreal. And that’s no way to cope.
So I’ve turned in the keys. And now I’ll get back to work finding us a new home. And packing. And preparing us for our new life in a new city. Even if I’m a little terrified.
After losing most of this post to the random resets of my phone, it took a while to have the motivation to get back to it. But we’re running out of Pastor Appreciation Month for me to get it done in. So here we go.
My church got a new pastor in June or July, and I have to say, there is plenty that I love about him. On with the list.
1. Missionary: Our pastor and his wife were missionaries in Russia and Europe for the last 20 years. This gives them a unique perspective on everything we do. It also means that they have practical ideas for our church’s missions. Because they’ve done it, they know how simple it can be, and they pass that ease on to us.
2. Stage Fright: Yes, our pastor suffers from stage fright. His hands shake and his mouth gets dry and sometimes he loses his voice and has to pause. Which might sound like a bad thing, but it’s something I love about him. He could never be a pastor on his own power. But the fact that he gets up in front of the congregation every Sunday and teaches us something new is a testament to the power of God. He always makes it through.
3. Dyslexia: Along the same lines as the stage fright, our pastor is dyslexic. And I find it empowering to know that dyslexia hasn’t stopped him from earning several degrees, and doesn’t keep him from reading the Bible, along with multiple commentaries and devotionals. If he can do it, all us normal people don’t have much excuse.
4. Passion: Pastors are supposed to be passionate. I understand that. But his passion feels different. Many pastors, when they get passionate about their sermon, they get loud. The start to maybe yell a little. But not our pastor. When he gets passionate about the Word of God, he gets quiet. And you can hear the tears in his voice. He gets all choked up about God and it’s something I appreciate in him. There are so many things that God has done for me that get me all choked up. It’s gratifying to know that I’m not the only one.
5. His wife: Pastors rarely come on their own. They always bring a second person. Their wife. And no matter how much you love a pastor, if their wife rubs you the wrong way, he won’t stick around long. Luckily, this isn’t so with our current pastor. His wife is the sweetest, most good-natured person I’ve met. She is so incredibly supportive of him. And she’s very friendly with everyone else. I admire her as a role model for other wives in the church (especially since I sometimes struggle in the being supportive category).
I’m pretty sure my original list was up to six before I lost it, and I hadn’t gotten to his wife yet. But for me, once things are written down, they are erased from my head in order to free up room. So I can’t remember what the others were.
If this list makes you curious and you live in the Topeka area, please come visit our church.
Seaman Baptist Church
2015 NW Buchanan
Sunday school starts at 9:30 Sunday morning. Worship starts at 10:45.
My church does VBS every year during Spring Break. It creates a place for parents to bring their kids when they don’t have other childcare for the week. This past spring, I took Elisebeth to VBS and on the couple days in the week when I didn’t work, I helped out. At the end of the week, we had a Family Night where the parents were invited to come and see what their children had been learning all night.
All week long, we’d been having a contest. The kids were bringing donations, and whichever gender raised the most money for the Topeka Rescue Mission, the adult-in-charge of the opposite gender would get a pie in the face. Over the course of the week, each group of kids managed to raise around $60. Which meant that in a week, we raised over $120 for our local mission. That was amazing enough. But at the Family Night, I was nearly brought to tears as I watched God move.
Carol was the VBS Director, and as she was explaining the competition to the parents (and the difference of less than $2 between the two totals), a woman stood up. Raising a $5 bill, she declared that she wanted to spare Carol from the pie and was adding to the girls’ pot. That one donation set off a wave of parents donating money on the spot, to either of the pots. When all was said and done, both leaders got pies in the face, and we’d raised another $40 or so for the Rescue Mission.
Afterwards, I took the time to ask about previous VBS Family Nights (which I’d never gone to, even when I was a teacher all week). Never, in the known history of our church doing VBS, has anything like that ever happened before. It was amazing, especially in the midst of the economic times, to watch God working in a crowd like that. These parents had been sending donations with their children all week, and then they gave a little more.
At my wedding
In 2004, there was a completely different version of me. That’s pretty normal, I suppose, since I’ve heard/read that your personality changes completely about every 7 years. But in this case, the change came pretty drastically and under really unpleasant circumstances.
In 2004, I was going to school and I was frighteningly close to graduating.The Spring of 2005 was going to be my last semester. I was also a regular attendee at church. I taught Sunday School. I was the Church Librarian. I was in the choir. I’d even attempted to start a young adults program to encourage newly graduated youth to stick with the church.
All of that was about to disappear, though I wouldn’t have believed it if I’d been warned. I loved my life. I loved God. I loved my new husband. Everything was great. And then my brother moved in with us.
Now, I don’t blame my brother for what happened. It took a lot of bad stuff, happening all at once, to knock me out of my life. But I can trace a lot of it back to letting him move in with us. Or at least, letting his wife move in with us.
Their marriage was basically over. They’d gotten involved in drugs and lost their house and their car. But my brother loved her, so he wanted to try to save their marriage. And I was witness to his attempts. He tried desperately to make her happy while she spewed venom at him. She would pick fights over anything and everything. She would convince him not to go to the day labor place, then complain about him not having money. She worked to sabotage his attempts to stay clean. She was basically just an unhappy person, trying to make everyone around her unhappy too. And I haven’t even gotten into the physical abuse she inflicted on him.
But this was the environment in my house as I began my last semester of school. Because they didn’t have a car, I basically became the household chauffeur. I would drive my husband to work, then take my brother to the day labor place (when he went). I’d either take him to a job site or take him back home to wait for a call, then go to class. After class, if I didn’t tutor, it was back home to wait for calls with my brother. Which meant I was trying to do homework and research amidst a lot of fighting. Eventually, I was so stressed, I couldn’t even concentrate long enough to read and comprehend a sentence. So, after talking to my husband and my adviser, I dropped out. The plan was to come back in the fall and finish, but I only just recently went back to school, so you can tell how that turned out.
Around this same time, I’d been working to start the young adult program at my church. Most Sundays and Wednesdays, it was just me and my husband. Occasionally, someone else would show up, but the other regularly attending young adult had declined to join us, stating that she felt it was an unnecessary division in the church. So, after continuing to try for a while, we quit and moved back in with the main adult group for Sunday School and Prayer Group.
Also, at this time, I was switching parts in the choir. I’d been a soprano since middle school but I was having problems with my voice so we decided that maybe I should try alto. But attempting to retrain myself for the alto parts was proving incredibly difficult.
So basically, I felt like a gigantic failure. And when my brother’s wife began turning her venom on me, it didn’t make things any better. I got depressed. I barely got out of bed. I stoppedclaning anything in my house. Things just piled up. And then I felt like a failure as a housewife, because look at my house! It was a terrible time, and even though we ended up evicting my brother and his wife, it kept going. I was severely depressed for six months before I finally said something to my husband. By that time, we’d already stopped going to church. He was working nights on the weekends, so he wasn’t going to wake for it on his own, and I wasn’t getting out of bed on any day of the week. I definitely didn’t have the energy to get us to church on Sunday.
When I started to feel better, I tried to get us back in church. But that same person who’d claimed that my young adult class was divisive invited us to attend (with her) the young adult class that was being attempted by someone else. That just made me depressed all over again. I was resentful of the other person because it seemed to me like they were succeeding where I failed. And then I felt guilty for being resentful because we’re all supposed to be on the same team and it’s supposed to be about God, not us.
The kids and me, just the other day
So all of that is how I lost track of the most important thing in my life: God. I lost such complete track that when Disappearing Mommy Syndrome set in, I didn’t have an anchor to hold on to. And unfortunately, my husband lost track of God, too, so he couldn’t provide me with an anchor, either. But I have definitely learned that finding my way back to myself is a journey that involves finding my way back to God. And every day I seem to get a little closer to that person I was. Or, at least, a grown-up, Mommy version of her. And that’s why I’ve changed the name of my blog. To better reflect the journey that I’m really on. The journey to rid myself of all the things in my life that have separated me from the life I was meant to have. All the things that were caused by that period of depression. I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of clutter and I’m back in church when I don’t have to work. But I haven’t been making it to Sunday School very regularly and my house has plenty of room for improvement. And there are still days when I fight with depression. But overall, I have direction now.
And knowing which way you’re going is half of the trip.